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From Certainty To Uncertainty: The Story Of Science And Ideas In The Twentieth Century

by F. David Peat

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From Publishers Weekly
At the same time that 20th-century science brought unprecedented advances, it also led to the growing awareness of the limitations of scientific knowledge itself. Through wonderfully concise, clear metaphors, physicist Peat (Infinite Potential) traces the philosophy of science from the 19th through the 20th centuries, showing how the earlier era¡s faith in the reliability of scientific research, and its belief that it was theoretically possible to predict the behavior of everything from particles to people, was abruptly shaken in the 20th century. Peat focuses especially on how the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics and chaos theory brought about cataclysmic changes in our worldview.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

"...impressively wide-ranging study ...immensely thought- provoking book"

"...remarkably lucid…full of philosophical wisdom. ... An admirable companion."

Physics World, July 2002
"This well written and easily read book is intended for a general audience..."

The Constant Reader, June 2002
"This book, which is reader-friendly even to the scientifically challenged, should go on every bookshelf."

Focus, January 2003
"Peat, one of science's more colourful historians, chronicles the shift with his usual creativity..."

What Is Enlightenment?, February-April 2004
"...[Peat] is an impassioned advocate of this perspective of uncertainty, building a progressively solid case for its significance..."

Providence: Studies in Western Civilization, 2004
"Peat effectively presents problems he sees confronting the world, and he expresses confidence that they will be solved."

The Scientific and Medical Network Review, Summer 2004
"This book raises more questions than it answers. For that very reason it can be recommended as a good read."

Book Description
Early theorists believed that in science lay the promise of certainty. Built on a foundation of fact and constructed with objective and trustworthy tools, science produced knowledge. But science has also shown us that this knowledge will always be fundamentally incomplete and that a true understanding of the world is ultimately beyond our grasp.

In this thoughtful and compelling book, physicist F. David Peat examines the basic philosophic difference between the certainty that characterized the thinking of humankind through the nineteenth century and contrasts it with the startling fall of certainty in the twentieth. The nineteenth century was marked by a boundless optimism and confidence in the power of progress and technology. Science and philosophy were on firm ground. Newtonian physics showed that the universe was a gigantic clockwork mechanism that functioned according to rigid laws—that its course could be predicted with total confidence far into the future. Indeed, in 1900, the President of the Royal Society in Britain went so far as to proclaim that everything of importance had already been discovered by science.

But it was not long before the seeds of a scientific revolution began to take root. Quantum Theory and the General Theory of Relativity exploded the clockwork universe, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that our knowledge was, at best, incomplete—and would probably remain that way forever. There were places in the universe, such as black holes, from which no information at all could ever be obtained. Chaos Theory also demonstrated our inherent limits to knowing, predicting, and controlling the world around us and showed the way that chaos can often be found at the heart of natural and social systems.

Although we may not always recognize it, this new world view has had a profound effect not only on science, but on art, literature, philosophy, and societal relations. The twenty-first century now begins with a humble acceptance of uncertainty.

From Certainty to Uncertainty traces the rise and fall of the deterministic universe and shows the evolving influences that such disparate disciplines now have on one another. Drawing on the lessons we can learn from history, Peat also speculates on how we will manage our lives into the future.

Book Info
Traces the rise and fall of the deterministic universe and shows the evolving influences that such disparate disciplines now have on one another. Drawing on the lessons we can learn from history, Peat also speculates on how we will manage our lives into the future. Softcover.

From the Inside Flap
"F. David Peat takes us on a wide-ranging, intellectual journey through the major scientific ideas of the 20th century, from physics and complexity to psychology and ecology. It's a grand, exhilarating tour of the post-modern world." -- Marcia Bartusiak, author of Einstein's Unfinished Symphony

"Lucid, engaging, provocative... simply brilliant. Peat delivers a fascinating take on why uncertainty in quantum physics intimately affects every aspect of our lives and thoughts. This timely book should be required reading for anybody who cares about where we all go from here." -- James Burke, author of Circles: Fifty Round-Trips Through History, Technology, Science, Culture

"The journey from certainty to uncertainty is not confined to a scientific tale. It is the story of how human thought has changed in every aspect so that we now live in an age where the only certainty is uncertainty. By making his story an intimate one and absorbing the reader with the very human nature of intellectual revolution, David Peat has done a wonderful job of illustrating how our vision of the universe has changed so radically, so quickly." -- Michael White, author of The Pope and the Heretic and Leonardo: The First Scientist

About the Author
F. David Peat was born in Liverpool, England. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Liverpool. He was engaged in research in theoretical physics at the National Research Council of Canada for many years and had ongoing discussions on the foundations of physics with the late David Bohm. In 1996, Peat moved to the medieval village of Pari, Italy, where he created the Pari Center for New Learning, where people can explore the new paradigms created by science and think about society’s meanings and values. Peat is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science and a Corresponding Member of the European Academy of Arts, Science, and the Humanities. He is author of over 20 books including: The Blackwinged Night: Creativity in Nature and Mind and Infinite Potential: The Life and Times of David Bohm.



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